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Hi Mr. Holmes,
Just wanted a quick update about the Emotional Tracker feature eta.
Thank you for a detailed reply as always. The design looks amazing. Can't wait to try is out. I agree when you say "it's truly f***ing miraculous to create these metrics"... eagerly waiting to f**ing take these metrics for a test drive 😊
So, it's important to remember that the purpose of emotional tracking is two things:
Making you "write into" metrics. The moment we're tracking the size of an obstacle or the stakes or the uncertainty, you're supposed to make story events that specifically move that needle.
Get a true sense of how the story is going by automatically calculating:
(a) Dramatic Tension
So in short, every Emotion or Objective is a feature on a Tag. Here is the Tag dialog with all the features enabled, although it would default to no tracking at all, and then you can add things as your comfort increases:
I'll explain the different kinds of tracking in a moment. For every beat with this tag assigned, you can then tweak the parameters:
And this will then result in curves that are drawn on top of each other on emotion tracks that you configure, showing both the movement and the current tension (i.e. the hotspots).
And in addition, two global graphs will be calculated for tension, and for success/failure. This is an old example. Just imagine two graphs. The success/failure one goes green and red.
So, returning to the Tag dialog, let me describe the tracking types:
If you enable Track Emotion/Objective, each Tag gets at least a single value that can go up/down, i.e. the following. Each change can be relative or absolute.
There's no particular scale. The value doesn't go from 0-100, it goes from your lowest value to your highest. If this is e.g. an objective, you'd never be able to precisely hit 100 as you keep adding and removing events that help achieve the objective. But having a floating scale, you don't have to babysit it.
And now we come to all the ways we track tension. First, each value has a goal of being high or low. An objective is achieved when you hit the highest value. If it's an emotion that's a bad feeling, the goal is to get it low, and it produces tension that it's high.
The tension curve says how tension is affected by your progress. For example, an objective has most of its tension when you're close to achieving it, because it's make or break. Although, if the objective is getting a romantic relationship, the tension might be in the beginning, because once your character has a foot in the door, we might feel sure it's happening. So you'll have a list of tension curves to choose from.
The other kinds of tracking are simply enabled if you feel that it's part of the story to follow them, or it's good therapy to write into them. And I have to say, it's truly f***ing miraculous to create these metrics. You immediately become a much better storyteller, just by the app forcing you to think in terms of what makes a story work.
These values are absolute. For any given event, you can simply say that "Now the amount of obstacle/friction is this". If the stakes go up, the total tension is multiplied higher. And uncertainty is again basically just multiplied onto the tension. This is about writing therapy, because they all do the same. But if we collapsed them into a single slider, it would become unintuitive.
Quick Tension is for tweaking the tension for this event, in case we get it wrong.
This is the best balance I've been able to achieve so far between accuracy and UI complexity. Having prototyped this endlessly, I feel that this produces graphs that actually look like the story feels.
Then finally there's conflict, which is to simply play multiple emotions against each other.
For example, I have a story where the character doesn't know who he is. One possibility is that he's really sensitive and artistic. Another possibility, since he looks tough, is that he's a tough guy. I make his sensitivity and his toughness into two separate metrics I can do separate work in the story to build up, separate story threads where I earnestly build up each polarity.
This allows me to un-soup the soup and understand what my story is made of. And it makes me think clearly about being faithful to each separate polarity in my story. The final story isn't just the average of my polarities, it's the conflict between them. It's like keeping all the colors separate instead of just mixing them into brown.
That's the million dollar question. The problem is pure R&D. Every time we land on the final model, we start discovering things you can't do, so it grows more complex until it's accurate but impossible to use. We've waffled between about 7 different models for about 10 years.
So it's not a matter of difficulty in making the feature, it's making the right choice. The dilemma, I now clearly understand, is about accuracy versus fewer buttons. When you try to make it so that it accurately captures emotional dimensions in a story, it balloons until there are too many buttons.
I feel like I'm now landing on a design that incorporates the realizations of the last many years, that removing too much complexity makes it unintuitive. In e.g. a car UI, the whole goal is to remove complexity, so that the same buttons can do many things in a given situation. That's actually not 100% good UI here. For example, if I have something like a difficult or obstacle concept which ultimately affects the dramatic tension, I might want to fold other concepts that into that also just affect dramatic tension, like stakes. The problem there is if you compact it too much, you end up with buttons that don't express any thought you have in your mind.
I'm happy to share where the design is now, because I feel like this is close to the final design. Next post.